Puberty in General
Between ages 10 to 14, young people’s bodies change as they transition from childhood to adulthood.
This doesn’t happen overnight and is a process of maturing that can take several years. Although there are some common changes, everyone matures differently in their own time.
Don’t worry if your body is maturing faster or slower than your friends or siblings. Puberty only happens once so enjoy the ride.
If you are uncomfortable about having male or female body parts, strongly wishing you had a different body, or otherwise feeling that your body doesn’t match who you are inside, please contact the resources below or the Calgary Sexual Health Centre.
During puberty you will start to notice hair growing in all sorts of places it didn’t use to. Hair can grow everywhere! Pubic hair is hair that grows around the genitals. Vulvas, penises, armpits, legs, arms, nipples, face, chest. Some people choose to shave their pubic hair, but the choice is yours.
Many teenagers going through puberty get acne (pimples, whiteheads and blackheads). This is normal and is caused by hormonal changes that make your skin secrete more oils than usual. Menstruation can impact how often you break out. If your parents had acne, you are more likely to get it. Don’t worry – it won’t last forever. To help control acne, wash your skin regularly and gently with soap and water. Don’t scrub too hard or it will irritate your skin even more. There are plenty of treatments you can buy in drugstores that may or may not help. If your acne is severe, consult your doctor.
One minute you feel calm and the next minute, you are crying. Sound familiar? Blame it on hormones. It is normal for teenagers to feel like they are on an emotional roller-coaster during puberty. There are a lot of physical changes to catch up with in addition to more responsibilities, decisions and choices that come with growing up.
Your feelings are valid and important to pay attention to; however, your hormones often make your feelings feel stronger and more intense than usual. If you are experiencing mood swings, it helps to just know this and to realize that things will calm down eventually. Make sure you have good support and talk to your friends or family about how you feel. Sometimes just telling someone how you feel inside helps you to feel better.
Menstruation or Your Period
Getting your period is a sure sign of entering adulthood. Some girls start as early as 9 years old and others wait until 16. 1 This is a fairly big deal to girls because it signals that they are able to get pregnant (whether they are ready to or not). To learn more about menstruation click here.
If you are a girl, you will begin to develop breasts during puberty. Breasts come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Many women’s breasts are sensitive and they enjoy having them touched during sexual activity.
Unfortunately, women’s breasts are hyped up in North American culture and used to advertise and sell products, including women themselves. Remember that breasts are part of a woman and not separate from her; they are not more important than who she is, what she thinks and how she feels as a human being.
During puberty, your sexual hormones are raging. It is very common and normal for boys to get spontaneous erections and even ejaculate at inopportune times. Although you think everyone will notice, it might help to remember that most people are too busy thinking about themselves to even notice.
At around age 12, some boys start having “wet dreams” which means they ejaculate during their sleep. Some males have wet dreams only during their teen years and others continue to have them into adulthood. Some males ejaculate if they are having sexual dreams; however, just because you ejaculate during your sleep, it does not mean you had a sex dream.
Having wet dreams is nothing to worry or feel ashamed about – it is normal. During puberty, your body is going through all sorts of hormonal changes that are not always under your control. If you wake up and find your bed is wet, just change the bedding or ask for some help and carry on.
Muscle and Chest Development
If you are a boy, you will notice that your chest widens and develops more muscles.
Anatomy and Sexual Health
Your body is great just the way it is! There is plenty of slang terms used to name our sexual parts and unfortunately most of them are negative.
The best way to learn about your own body is to have a look for yourself and touch the parts that you can. Take a look in the mirror and remind yourself that this is what a normal body looks like. It is healthy to know your body…and fun! After all, you own it.
Is my body okay? Am I sexually attractive? What is “normal”? At Calgary Sexual Health Centre, these are questions we get asked all the time. “Normal” is whatever your body looks like and you are perfect the way you are. Lots of bodies don’t fit typical definitions of male and female anatomy and there is more variation in sexual organs than we often hear about.
The Intersex Society of North America is one organization that is working to broaden our understanding about what it means to be male or female and to end the shame and secrecy that often surrounds reproductive anatomy.
Below is a list of body parts that some people have.
These are traditionally referred to as ‘female anatomy’, but we know that no two bodies look exactly the same! Some people who are female have all of these body parts, some people have some, and some people have none of these body parts but may still identify as female or feminine. Other people may have some or all of these body parts and not identify with any gender. Below are the medical terms, but everyone may have their own words to describe these body parts.
This is the real word for everything you see on the outside of the genitalia. People often call this a vagina but it is really a vulva. It includes the mons pubis (mound), labia (lips), clitoral hood (clit) and openings to the vagina and urethra (where you pee from). Every vulva is unique and vulvas can vary quite a bit in size, shape and colour.
This is the fleshy part that covers the outside of the pubic bone. During puberty, hair grows here.
Pubic hair varies from person to person; it can be straight or curly, a lot or a little, and black, brown, blonde, white, red, auburn or grey. Some people shave their pubic hair and some don’t.
The outer lips are the fleshy folds that you see on the outside of the body. Their job is to protect the inner parts and they are usually covered with pubic hair after puberty. Labia vary in size, shape and colour.
The inner lips sit between your two outer lips. To see them you might want to use your fingers to move the outer lips aside. Inner lips don’t have pubic hair. They are thinner than the outside labia and more sensitive to touch. They also vary a lot in size, shape and colour. During sexual pleasure, blood flows to the inner lips and they can look darker and bigger.
At the top of the inner lips, there is a little hood that covers the clitoris. The clitoris looks relatively small on the outside but it has roots that run down both sides of the vagina underneath the skin. The clitoris is very sensitive to touch and during arousal, it fills with blood and becomes erect (similar to the head of the penis). It has lots of nerve endings and is the only part of the body that exists purely for pleasure.
The hymen is a thin skin that partially or fully covers the opening to the vagina. This is the part that is believed to tear, stretch or “pop” the first time someone experiences vaginal penetration. Some folks do bleed a bit the first time they put something into their vagina, but lots don’t. The hymen can be stretched partially or fully from riding bikes or horses, falling or using tampons. Some people are born without a hymen.
This is the larger opening you see at the bottom of the vaginal lips if you move the labia apart. There are very tiny glands on both sides of the opening called Bartholin glands that secrete lubricating fluid.
This is the smaller opening you see above the vaginal opening. It looks like a small fold of skin and it’s where urine (pee) comes out.
This is the area between the vaginal opening and the anus. Some people find this area pleasurable and sensitive to touch.
The anus is the opening to the rectum. Some people find it sensitive and pleasurable to touch.
The vagina is a muscular and flexible tunnel about the length of your hand. It is lined with mucous membranes that feel wet, sort of like the inside of your mouth. It is not very sensitive because it makes up part of the birth canal and giving birth would feel too uncomfortable with lots of nerve endings there. It is also the passageway for menstrual fluids. The walls of the vagina rest against each other, and when a female is turned on, the vagina swells, lengthens and becomes wet.
At the end of the vagina is the cervix which is actually the bottom of the uterus. It feels hard and round but can change in shape and texture at different points in a menstrual cycle. It has many nerve cells and swells during sexual excitement; some people find stimulation of the cervix pleasurable while others find it irritating.
The urethra is the tube that carries urine (pee) from the bladder out of the body through the urethral opening.
These tiny glands are inside the urethral opening. They are where female ejaculate comes from.
The release of fluids produced in the female prostate (G-Spot). It is similar to male prostatic fluid and it’s thicker than urine. There can be a couple of tablespoons of it or as much as a cup or two.
The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ that sheds its lining during menstruation. This is what you see when you have your period. The uterus is very strong and flexible and it is where a fetus grows during pregnancy.
Attached to the uterus are two almond-shaped glands called ovaries. These glands store egg cells (ovum) and produce the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Did you know that biological females are born with one to two million eggs? By the time menstruation starts there are about 400,000 left and only about 400 will ever mature. Ovulation means the ovaries have released an egg into the fallopian tubes.
The fallopian tubes are thin tubes that carry eggs (ovum) from the ovaries to the womb. Normally it takes 3-4 days for an egg to make the journey from the beginning of the tube to the uterus. Along the way, if an egg meets up with sperm, pregnancy may occur. Sometimes these tubes get blocked and a woman has difficulty getting pregnant or the fertilized egg cannot reach the womb.
Grafenberg Spot (G-Spot)
The G-Spot is named after Dr. Grafenberg. This is an area on the front inner wall of the vagina, just above the pubic bone. It contains spongy tissue, which surrounds the urethra. Pressure on this area can give the sensation of having to urinate. Some people enjoy having it stimulated and some do not. The G-Spot is associated with female ejaculation (squirting), but not everyone experiences this.
Below is a list of body parts that some people have.
These are traditionally referred to as ‘male anatomy’, but we know that no two bodies look exactly the same! Some people who are male have all of these body parts, some people have some, and some people have none of these body parts but may still identify as male or masculine. Other people may have some or all of these body parts and not identify with any gender. Below are the medical terms, but everyone may have their own words to describe these body parts.
The penis is made of spongy tissue and hangs down on the outside. Usually it is soft but sometimes it fills up with blood and gets harder. Penises come in many shapes, sizes and colours; you cannot tell how big it is when it is erect (hard) from its size when flaccid (soft). Some stay about the same while others get longer or wider. If you jump in cold water you will notice your penis shrink as it pulls closer to the body to stay warm.
The shaft is the part of the penis that runs from the body to the tip of the penis. When the penis is soft or flaccid the skin is loose, stretchy and/or wrinkly. When it gets hard, the skin stretches out and becomes smoother.
The head of the penis is often slightly wider than the shaft and looks a bit like the head of a mushroom. It has lots of nerve endings and is very sensitive to touch (similar to the clitoris). At the tip is the urethral opening.
The urethral opening is the smaller hole you see at the end of the penis. This is where pre-ejaculate, semen and urine come out.
Underneath the penis where the shaft meets the head, you can see an indent. This is a very sensitive area for many males.
The foreskin is a thin skin that covers the head of the penis when it is soft (it looks like a hood). When the penis gets hard, the foreskin pulls back to just below the head of the penis. Some people are circumcised which means their foreskin has been removed and you can see the head of the penis all the time.
The scrotum is the loose skin below the penis that holds the testicles. The scrotum is sensitive to touch and its job is to protect the testicles and help them maintain a temperature ideal for sperm production, a couple degrees lower than body temperature. In hot temperatures, the scrotum hangs down to cool the testicles off and in cool temperatures it pulls up tightly against the body to keep them warm. During puberty hair begins to grow on the scrotum. It’s different for everyone – some people have a lot of public hair and some have a little.
Behind each testicle is a coiled tube called the epididymis that stores the sperm until they mature. The epididymis feels like a small uneven bump on the surface of the testicle.
This is the area between the scrotum and the anus. Some people find this area pleasurable and sensitive to touch.
The anus is the opening to the rectum. Some people find it sensitive and pleasurable to touch.
These are the tubes that carry sperm out of the testes to the urethra. During a vasectomy, these tubes are cut, pinched or clipped off so the sperm cannot mix with the rest of the fluids that makes up semen.
These are two small sac-like pouches that attach to the vas deferens. They make a sugar-rich fluid that gives the sperm energy it needs. In fact, this sugary fluid makes up most of the semen during ejaculation.
Two tubes of spongy erectile tissue that help form the shaft of the penis.
The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut though it can get larger as folks reach age 40 to 50. It is located inside the body near where the penis starts so it is not easy to feel. It can be felt by inserting a finger inside the rectum and feeling toward the front of your body. It makes a whitish fluid that helps sperm to move and travel in the right direction. This is why semen looks white. The prostate gland also helps control urination. Many people find stimulation of the prostate pleasurable.
The testicles are the sex glands that hang behind the penis and inside the scrotum. They produce sperm and the hormone testosterone. Testicles are egg shaped and vary in size and shape from one person to the next. Most people have two testicles and one usually hangs lower than the other; however, it is not uncommon to have only one testicle, or as many as three! The testicles are sensitive and that’s why many people wear protective cups when playing sports.
Two glands located just below the bladder, which produce pre-ejaculate fluid (pre-come).
The fluid released by the Cowper’s gland between the beginning of arousal and ejaculation. There can be just a drop or two, or a bit more of it, and it can contain a very small amount of sperm.
Semen is the whitish fluid that comes out of the end of the penis during ejaculation. About one third of the fluid comes from the prostate gland and the rest comes from the seminal vesicles. Semen has a slightly basic Ph. Inside the fluid is anywhere from 40 to 600 million sperm each time a male ejaculates. This sounds like a lot but they are very tiny.
The urethra is the tube that carries urine (pee), pre-ejaculate and semen out of the body. During sexual excitement, , there is a valve that blocks the urine from entering the urethra. Without the valve, urine could damage the sperm with its acidity.
If you are transgender and don’t identify your gender with your birth sex and feel uncomfortable with the traditional names for your body parts, you may want to find new words to describe your body.
A trans-friendly health professional can help if you are:
- so bothered by gender issues that you are finding it hard to relate to other people or go out in public
- ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, worried, overwhelmed, stressed out, or depressed about gender issues
- thinking about cross-dressing or gender issues so much that you’re having difficulty focusing on anything else
- uncomfortable about having male or female body parts, strongly wishing you had a different body, or otherwise feeling that your body doesn’t match who you are inside
According to the international guidelines (available from the Transgender Health Program) for health professionals who work with people undergoing gender transition, youth under age 18 who want to change their bodies need to be seen by adolescent health specialists who have training in trans medicine. The specialists may recommend three types of treatment, depending on the youth’s age:
- Delaying puberty: Trans youth whose dysphoria gets worse when puberty starts can be prescribed medication that will temporarily stop puberty. If you change your mind about transition while you’re on these drugs, they can be stopped and you’ll go through a normal puberty: in other words, this stage is fully reversible.
- Taking estrogen/testosterone: At age 16, cross-sex hormones (estrogen for MTFs, testosterone for FTMs) can be prescribed. This will bring about most of the changes of puberty for the gender the person identifies as – MTFs will grow breasts, FTMs will grow facial hair, etc. The Transgender Health Program (see last page) has more information about what estrogen and testosterone do. These effects are partially reversible; some are permanent even if you stop hormones, and some are reversible.
- Surgery: After age 18, possible surgical options include: breast implants, removal of the testicles/penis, creation of a vagina/clitoris/labia, facial surgery, voice surgery (MTF); or chest reconstruction, removal of the uterus/ovaries/vagina, creation of a penis/testicles (FTM). If hormone treatment has started early enough, chest/breast surgery, facial surgery, and voice surgery are usually not needed.
Trans Youth Puberty FAQs
Q: Will I have to go through puberty?
A: There are medications called puberty blockers that will temporarily prevent puberty from happening, but you will need your parents’ permission to take them. Think of it like pressing the pause button on puberty. If you change your mind about medically transitioning while you’re on these medications, you can always stop taking them and start your body’s natural puberty. In other words, this stage is fully reversible. If you have already started puberty, this may not be an option for you.
Q: What if I have already begun to go through puberty?
A: If you have already started puberty you can not block hormones but you may be able to take hormone replacement therapy. If you are 16 and have permission from your parent(s) or guardian(s) you can access these kinds of hormones from a doctor. When a doctor prescribes hormones, you will go through what many call a “second puberty”. This puberty would be for the gender you identify with. These prescribed hormones can reverse some of the effects of your first puberty. Many of the changes they cause to the body can not be reversed, even if you stop taking these medications.
People assigned female at birth who take testosterone as their hormone replacement therapy may notice changes like:
- Potential hair loss at the temples and crown of the head, resulting in a more masculine hairline; possibly male-pattern baldness
- Hair growth on areas like the face, the chest, and the stomach
- Body fat shifting from the hips, thighs and butt to the stomach area
- Voice changes
- Oily, rougher skin which may result in acne
- Periods stop
- Increase in sexual thoughts or feelings
People assigned male at birth who take estrogen as their hormone replacement therapy may notice changes like:
- Slowing and thinning of hair growth (but hair will not stop growing completely on areas like the face)
- Body fat shifting from the stomach area to the hips, thighs and butt
- Breast growth
- Softer skin with less oil
- Smaller testicles
- Decrease in sexual thoughts or feelings